Calf Island: I see Garlic Mustard when I close my eyes

I’ve been on Calf island for somewhere in the neighborhood of 35 days now (or will have been when this post goes live). As I mentioned in a previous post one of the biggest priorities on the island is spearheading the removal / cleanup effort that the Biologists at the Steward B. McKinney Wildlife refuge cooked up. To that end I spent the first few weeks of my term cris-crossing the island with a handheld gps and a notebook, finding and marking populations of invasive species. Once I was confident we’d found the majority of the larger populations we began removal efforts, endevouring to visit and remove invasive individuals from each of the 40 plots we located once every seven days. At this point in the summer its a pretty easy task — I’ve already found and bagged most of the target individuals. However, for the first few weeks it was an incredibly time consuming job. Our initial passes filled nearly four dozen 30 gallon trash bags with seed-bearing stems and there’s always more.

As far as I’m concerned this summer, there are three invasive plant species in need of attention currently on Calf Island.

First, there’s Mile-a-minute vine, an aggressive annual vine species that carpets areas if left untreated, strangling and suffocating everything beneath it. It has thorns, but early in the season they aren’t so bad. It isn’t too prevalent on Calf island just yet, and I’m pretty confident that given a few treatments and a bit of luck, it’ll be gone from here.

Next, there’s Japanese Knotweed, which luckily is only present on a few spaces on the island. Typically places with sunlight, which are rare under the canopy in the island’s interior.

Finally, the island (like everywhere else it seems) has a Garlic Mustard problem. A massive one. In truth maybe forty of the four-dozen trash bags we’ve filled so far have been filled with Garlic Mustard. The second-year adult plants were already seeding when we landed on the island the first day, so it immediately became a priority. Its seeds can persist in the seedbank for upwards of five years, too. So any effect our efforts might have had won’t be felt until I’m nearly thirty.

That’s a thought to give me pause.

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Posted on July 13, 2012, in Stewart B. McKinney NWR. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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